Young Masters has invited Dutch photographer Isabelle Van Zeijl to present her surreal photographs at the forthcoming Cynthia Corbett Gallery Spring Exhibition: Focus on Photography and at the Affordable Art Fair in Hampstead later this year (see tour 2015).
Isabelle shares with us her inspiration and the drive behind her practice, giving an insight into the woman behind the work.
What is it about Young Masters that interests you most?
When I saw a selection of the work of Young Masters at the London Art fair this year, I could identify with the way the artists work. I strongly believe in the approach of Young Masters by considering contemporary art through a historical lens and by recognising the value of reinterpreting these influences we find new and conceptual approaches. I believe this platform for artists who actively engage with the art of the past to make it contemporary is a strong concept because this selected range of diverse works from ‘Young Masters’ strengthens each others work. The concept will therefore have a stronger impact on the viewer.
Can you explain to us what your work is about?
My works are self-portraits. I am inspired by the portraits of women, the most admired creature in the world. I strive to define beauty through my portraits. In the art of the old masters there was a lot of focus on classical beauty and aesthetics, so therefore it inspires me. The Renaissance was a period of enterprise and activity for women who used cosmetics, decreed fashion trends at court and conformed to the taste of luxurious display. But they did not forget to cultivate their minds and played an active role in for example the fine arts. This social behaviour has a lot of similarities with current times. In my work I refer to elements from the Renaissance, for example my series, She, Golden and Surface.
As a photographer portraying the beauty of women I am responding to theoretical questions such as what is beauty and under what conditions is it knowable? As well as practical ones which techniques, which tastes and social mores allow us to describe a woman as beautiful?
In my work I am my own photographer, model, make up artist, stylist and do my own post production. This makes me independent to make every choice myself. I portray myself in order to stay authentic and as a result I create an overview of how the image of beauty changes over time. When the images are finished they do not belong to present life, but are somewhere in our collective memory.
I create a visual and conceptual bridge between the ages.
In my overview of the last ten years, I can see a reflection of the issues a woman confronts in life such as youth, sexuality, relationships, motherhood, overcoming obstacles. I find it interesting to define beauty in each portrait.
Which artist/s are you most inspired by?
It may be clear that I am inspired by the old masters, from the Early Renaissance, Flemish and Dutch painters, the Golden Age painters such as Rembrandt. But also contemporary photographers who feel the need to give new insights, and give their work an original surprising contemporary touch.
Can you tell us something about your background?
I was born into a highly creative family; My father was an Architect teaching Architectural History at University. He always pointed out to me the beauty in things in architecture, art, daily life. Our house was a library of art books, but also fashion magazines such as ‘Avenue’ a former Dutch fashion magazine. The female models fascinated me with their faces as if they didn’t exist in the real world. The concept of beauty as it was portrayed in these fashion magazines captured my imagination. My mother was a textile designer and made her designs at the kitchen table. I watched her creating designs when coming home from school. It inspired me that my parents did what they loved most, and made a comfortable living with it. I think I absorbed it, and when I started portraying myself during my studies at Royal Academy of Arts it all came out.
With my fascination for the art of the past, the role of the female through the ages, and the different perspectives with which to look at beauty, I found photography as a medium to re invent and transform all of that inspiration into a new and modern way of making art.
What inspired you to become an artist?
When I was a young girl of 10 years old, my mother took me to the well-known Dutch Art Fair TEFAF. The moment I walked in I saw the beauty of the art, the high quality of it, the people tempted by art, and felt the atmosphere. It was then that I knew that this was what I wanted to do with my life. 15 years later I had my first exhibition at the PAN, the national counterpart of the TEFAF. The overwhelming response I received for my work confirmed my commitment to being a Fine Art Photographer.
If you weren’t an artist what would you be?
Definitely something creative! I can find creativity and inspiration in many things. But I love images, from painting, photographs, places I wish to visit, everything that inspires me, I absorb. I strongly believe in the power of imagination. Images give you a certain feeling, and to me it all starts with feeling good, and loving what you do and doing what you love. Imagination can have a strong influence in your life, like Einstein says: “Imagination is the manifestation of life’s coming attractions”.
What is your greatest achievement as an artist to date?
After ten years portraying myself, one day I saw the face of my 7 years old son trough my lens. I saw a glimpse of a strong soul. In truth I think there is no beauty more authentic than the wisdom we find in love in some individual. As a photographer it is all about capturing the right moment, the right look. I am very grateful he gave me that right moment, the moment his soul was revealed to me. I could capture it with my camera (Grand).
What are your plans for the future?
I will continue to develop new series, discover new mediums and techniques.
I think every new series of work I create complements earlier work and so it creates an overview of a definition of beauty through a woman’s portrait through time.
With my work I strive to generate worldwide exposure. I can work from anywhere in the world. Because I am my own model, I always have myself, my camera and a computer to hand. So I will have total freedom and independence to create everlasting and timeless beauty.